Jeff Fisher's Rams almost shut out Peyton Manning and the Broncos during their surprising--to me, at least--22-7 victory at home last Sunday. This Sunday, they travel to Qualcomm Stadium to take on the San Diego Chargers, who were shut out 37-0 against the Dolphins a few weeks ago. Robert Quinn will continue to aim for national media respect as he leads the Rams' defense, while Shaun Hill will be hoping to get Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt involved in the passing game early and often. Philip Rivers will be hoping Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen show off their skills and that Manti Te'o and Melvin Ingram can keep the the Rams' offense in check. Will the Rams' defense continue to stand up? Will Philip Rivers recapture the form he showed last season that had some media pundits describing him as elite? Who knows? I do, however, know that if you live in the Houston market, you won't be seeing it unless you have DirecTV. Chris Myers and Ronde Barber will be covering the game on Fox for those of you with access to the game.
Bruce Arians and his Kangol hat will be roaming the sidelines of Century Link Field hoping Taima doesn't have another episode and decide Arians' head is a good landing place. The Arizona Cardinals have the best record (9-1) in the NFL and have won six straight, even though Carson Palmer is lost for the season with a torn ACL and Larry Fitzgerald hasn't dominated like the Fitz we're used to seeing. They've done this through Drew Stanton stepping up, and with the defensive talents of Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson, and Tyrann Mathieu, among others. The reigning Super Bowl champions, on the other hand, remain a maelstrom of controversy and struggles. Last week, Marshawn Lynch was too fatigued to go into the locker room at halftime and answered questions about his relationship with his head coach and the front office with brutal honesty. This week, Pete Carroll has admitted that he and the star of his offense, the aforementioned Beast Mode, are working through some things. In the midst of all of this, there have been stories emanating from the Pacific Northwest--the land of Starbucks and Pike Place Fish Market--about internal discord, racial tension, in-season physical altercations between teammates and the power held by Braun's most boring spokesman, Russell Wilson. Injuries have taken a toll on the vaunted Seattle defense, led by Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor (despite Richard Sherman getting the lion's share of credit). It wasn't that long ago that any game Seattle played at home was automatically a win, but the Cardinals might be able to storm and take over that fortress with relative ease on Sunday. If you live in the Houston market, you'll catch this game, called on Fox by Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch.
Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins emerged from last season beat down, humiliated, and engulfed by controversy. This season, they're second in the AFC East at 6-4 and face a Broncos team that sits atop the AFC West at 7-3, but looks to be missing a number of offensive weapons, especially if Emmanuel Sanders can't recover from his concussion in time to play. If Tannehill can feed Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Jarvis Landry, Cameron Wake, Louis Delmas, our beloved Earl EMFM Mitchell and the infamous Cortland Innegan may be able to contain Five-Head's offensive attack. The Denver Broncos will be at home, with Peyton Manning hoping that he has Sanders, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, and Wes Welker at his disposal, and that Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and Rahim Moore are able to limit Tannehill's effectiveness. If you looked at the game on the schedule before the season unfolded, this would have been an automatic win for the Broncos, but the Dolphins have made great strides and it's too tough to call. Denver needs a win to avoid slipping into a first place tie with the Kansas City Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West, while a win for the Dolphins would bring them closer to the New England Patriots. Most of the country, including the Houston market, will be watching this on CBS after the Texans game, called by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
Two of--if not the--most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL play one another at the Field of Jeans. Robert Griffin III spent the week getting slapped down and dogged out by his head coach Jay Gruden in press conferences, and his teammates have further fed the controversy always surrounding the team in our nation's capital by posting cryptic messages on Instagram and then calling out those who are concerned about the tweets. The controversy over the team name has finally taken a backseat to the controversy over whether RGMe is a leader, has spent enough time perfecting his craft to earn the right to discuss anyone else on the team, and whether Gruden is paving the way to bench Dan Snyder's precious love in favor of Colt McCoy (though Kirk Cousins talk has finally died down, McCoy has become the new fan favorite in Washington). Unfortunately, RGIII is forced to travel across the country with a head coach who doesn't appear to like him, a WR in DeSean Jackson who has no problem posting shady social media messages, Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, and Alfred Morris, minus the eternally-injured Brian Orakpo, but with the mouthy Ryan Clark, Keenan Robinson, and Ryan Kerrigan. They will be hoping that Colin Kaepernick continues to struggle because he has Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree at his disposal. The San Francisco 49ers' defense got Aldon Smith back last week and still boasts Justin Smith and rookie Chris Borland (On Wisconsin!), but lost Patrick Willis for the season. It also remains unsure whether NaVorro Bowman will return this season. In addition to injury concerns, both teams have internal locker room problems, with rumors abounding that RGIII and Jim Harbaugh have lost their respective locker rooms. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon will be calling this game on CBS, but only the Dallas, Washington, and San Francisco markets will carry it.
Well, the NFL has gifted us with four afternoon games that promise plenty of media saturation and overreaction. Feel free to get both started in the comments below. Remember to respect each other, even if you can't respect each other's opinions and football analysis.